Woman IPS officer accuses a top Tamil Nadu police official of sexual harassment, Madras High Court takes suo motu notice

Published : March 06, 2021 17:10 IST

For the first time in the history of Tamil Nadu Police, a senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer in the rank of Director General of Police (DGP) has been compulsorily wait-listed by the Department of Home, Tamil Nadu government, following an accusation of sexual harassment against him from a serving woman IPS officer who is a Superintendant of Police (S.P.) in one of the Central districts of Tamil Nadu. The senior officer, prior to his wait-listing, was the Special DGP (Law and Order).

The Madras High Court, which has taken up the case suo motu, has forbidden the media from disclosing the name of the accused although the first information report (FIR) filed by the CB-CID, a copy of which is available with Frontline, has named the accused.

The woman S.P., in her complaint, has accused the Special DGP of harassing her and behaving “inappropriately” inside his official car while they were returning after discharging their duties from Karur town where Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami was touring on February 21. She has given written complaints to both Tamil Nadu DGP J.K. Tripathy, who immediately ordered a CB-CID police investigation, and the Home Secretary, who assured of “appropriate action”.

In her complaint, the woman S.P. alleged that the reported incident of harassment took place in the Special DGP’s car when they were returning from Karur district on February 21. The victim was on security duty for the Chief Minister’s tour. The accused took her in his official car after the Chief Minister’s programme got over under the pretext of dropping her at Perambalur. Inside the car, he allegedly asked her to sing a song and then held her hand. He then allegedly kissed the back of her hand, despite her expressing discomfort over his behaviour. In her complaint, she has said when she left for Chennai to give a complaint, the Chengalpattu S.P. allegedly tried to prevent her from proceeding to Chennai. She was forced to talk to the former Special DGP on the phone, who pleaded with her saying, “I will fall at your feet and apologise....”

Another FIR was filed against D. Kannan, S.P., Chengalpattu district, who allegedly used “police force” to prevent the woman S.P. from proceeding to Chennai by road to prefer the harassment complaint against the Special DGP.

Many women’s fora, including the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), have demanded the immediate arrest of the former Special DGP. A team of 10 senior serving women IPS officers also personally met DGP J.K. Tripathy and asked him to initiate immediate action against the accused as per law. On instructions from the DGP, the CB-CID registered an FIR against the Special DGP under Sections 354 A (sexual harassment), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and 506(1) (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002. Legal experts claimed that it becomes a non-bailable offence when Section 354 A is registered along with 506 (1) in the FIR.

The Tamil Nadu government set up a six-member Vishaka committee led by Additional Chief Secretary Jayashree Raghunandan to inquire into the S.P.’s complaint. The committee would recommend further course of action as per the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Meanwhile, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) suo motu took up the matter and sought a detailed report from DGP Tripathy.

Madras High Court calls it a shocking incident

The Madras High Court took up the issue suo motu on March 1. Justice N. Anand Venkatesh, Judge, Madras High Court, called it “a very shocking incident that may impact the women officers belonging to the Tamil Nadu Police Force.” He further said that considering “the monstrosity of the situation”, the court had decided to take suo motu cognisance in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

The court, while expressing its deep concern, said that it shuddered “to think as to what would have happened if the victim was an officer belonging to a lower cadre as that of a Sub-Inspector or Constable of Police”. The judge observed that “there is a faulty gene in men which sometimes make them think that a woman is subordinate to them and that at times she can even be treated like a chattel”. The judge called the attempt to prevent the woman S.P. from going to Chennai “most shocking”.

However, to ensure a fair investigation, the judge directed the media not to name the victim officer, accused person and witnesses. Any violation of the directions would be viewed seriously with contempt, he said, before placing the order before the Chief Justice to obtain the necessary orders and directions for further proceedings.

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